It is inconceivable that the profession you have yearned for, trained for, is in a moment, catastrophically revealed to be anathema to your origins. Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s profoundly poignant and grippingly realistic portrait of two women, bound by blood, but living diametrically opposite, disparate existences; testifies to the monumental atrocities, residual effects perpetrated upon the blameless by the Nazi regime.
Filmed in pristine black- and -white, 1961, Poland; “Anna” ( luminous, penetrating portrayal by Agata Trzebuckowska) pure, virginal, unworldly, reared in a Catholic orphanage, prepares to take her vows, dedicating her life to God, as one of his selected, inspired servants; her final task is to meet her only surviving relative, “Aunt Wanda” (brilliant, boozy performance by Agata Kulesza) an ex -state prosecutor; the subtle transformation of both women as they travel to find their slain, buried family, wrenchingly strips the innocence from one and hope from the other; a fascinating parable between the spiritual and the carnal; musically resonating with Mozart’s divine Jupiter Symphony versus Coltrane’s earthy strains of vast carnality.
Pawlikowski, born in 1957, had a Jewish grandmother murdered in Auschwitz, Poland’s infamous concentration camp: three million of Poland’s Jews were exterminated, during the war; “Ida” gingerly reflects and blends the murky complicity, culpability plus the limited heroism of Poland’s non-Jewish population.
“Ida’s” greatness lies in its honesty, lacking consummate, didactic solutions; choice is left to the individual, and Anna and Wanda, free to choose their destinies, leave viewers questioning but ultimately, respecting, accepting their decisions.